Cowboy opts for guide horse
Here we see an article about David Holder, a Oklahoma Cowboy who is training his own guide horse:
ALTUS - In 1993 David Holder lost sight in his right eye. Six years later
his left eye went dark.
For most people such an experience would have been traumatic.
But because the 52-year old Holder was told he would be totally blind before
he reached the age of 16, he knew exactly what to do - Get a horse.
Holder decided that instead of the usual Seeing Eye dog, he wanted a guide
"It's been done in other places," Holder said. "There is a place down in
North Carolina that's training them. I went down there four years ago and
worked with some of the horses down there. When I knew I was losing my sight
I went to looking at these deals before then. I found out what I could about
Even though Holder first used a guide dog after he went blind, a year ago he
took possession of an American miniature horse to take over the guide
"The registered name on him is Rx3 Thunderbolt," Holder said. "We just call
him Bo. He is 2 years old. I have been training this horse myself. It has
been a challenge at times but that's part of it."
When Holder first saw Bo, the horse was 10 days old and was able to walk
under his guide dog. The horse has now grown to a mature 28 inches tall,
which Holder says is on the verge of being too big.
However, for Holder the benefits of using Bo greatly outweigh any
negatives - including complaints made at Altus City Council meetings from
some residents who have grown accustomed to seeing a guide dog but object to
a guide horse.
"One of the things about a horse is the longer life of them," Holder said.
"Where a dog is only useful up to about 7 to 8 years, a horse is useful up
to about 30 years. The horse is less expensive to feed. They're cheaper to
maintain than the dog is. About half the cost of a dog. So that's another
Another drawback to service canines is the fear many have of dogs.
"I have had several times going into stores where kids have been bit or
attacked by dogs and they are afraid of the dog. The horse, they are not.
They are more acceptable to people."
Yet, that does not mean Holder and Bo do not have their issues out in
"The problem around here is that people are not quite used to the idea of
it," Holder said. "Everybody wants to pet them. And just like with any
assistance animal you're not supposed to pet them or run up to them and grab
them. I have that problem a lot. Sometimes they get a surprise because he
The concept of the guide horse has become popular over the last five years.
There are several training camps across the country that cater to teaching
the miniature horse its guide duties.
But these days demand is outgrowing supply.
"There is a big demand for the horses," Holder said. "The last time I talked
to them down in North Carolina, they had applications for 2,000 people
wanting guide horses. And they are only turning out two a year. It takes a
little bit longer to train the horse."
According to the Guide Horse Foundation website, horses are natural guide
animals and Holder agrees.
"I have worked with horses all my life," Holder said. "Been raised around
them. I cowboyed and everything. I was used to being around horses and being
with them. They do things instinctively that a dog does not do. If there is
a hole in the ground, a dog will run up and see what's in it. A horse won't.
He will move away from anything that looks dangerous."
Despite Holder's dependence on Bo, he has not taken the horse into any of
the stores or restaurants in Altus. He said he needs more specialized
equipment before he can do that. That includes special shoes and a harness.
Bo will become a common guest at Altus stores and other public places when
Holder gets those implements. According to Americans with Disabilities Act,
privately owned businesses that serve the public are prohibited from
discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these
businesses to allow service animals to accompany their owners inside.
Holder has no doubt that he and Bo will become a regular fixture around town
"If you are blind, the animal becomes part of you," Holder said. "You
respond to the animal and the animal responds to you. It works out real well
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